International Women's Day: Twelve challenges from Wisely team members to everyone who has a ‘Seat at the Table’

Wisely
March 8, 2021
9
min read
Leadership
International Women’s Day calls us all to:
Choose to challenge gender bias and inequity
Choose to celebrate women’s achievements
Collectively help to create an inclusive world
T

his International Women’s Day, the team at Wisely joins the global movement in affirming that  “individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions—all day, every day. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements and the achievements of all marginalized people. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.” 

“A challenged world is an alert world,” the International Women’s Day organization writes. In telling the stories of the many #WiseWomen on team Wisely, and those who have inspired us and helped us grow (shared in full on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), we reflect on the biases and obstacles that shape women’s experiences, share lessons learned, and challenge ourselves and our industry to create an environment where equality and inclusivity are the norm.

Challenges to everyone who has a ‘seat at the table’

Women are dramatically underrepresented in leadership positions, and this problem has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, with women, especially women of color making up 55% of jobs lost. Reflecting on this, we, the team at Wisely, #ChoosetoChallenge ourselves, first and foremost, and those reading this to consider taking the following actions:


INVEST
  • Put resources and time into educating the entire team on gender equality. Set aside funds to send women and other marginalized team members to conferences and events that promote their success—try to apply at least one actionable systemic change from the learnings brought back to your organization.


“I think understanding why women need to have "Women's Day" was challenging for me to comprehend a few years ago. It took strong, brave women to lead me to a Women's Conference to help me learn why we are stronger as a group and what obstacles we still have to overcome. I've tried to help other women understand the importance of having a culture inclusive of women and the diverse skill set that we bring to an organization. Constantly challenging the status quo to help women understand their value is something we can all help with.”

Sabrina Duren, Wisely Director of Enterprise Sales


REFERRALS 


“The current times are a challenge in general - the pandemic, social injustice, political turmoil, unprecedented storms, personal hardship, the list goes on. But I have honestly seen more banding together than ever before in every aspect of my life… Mutual empathy has been one of the best things to come out of this crazy new world.”

Jessi DeNaut, Wisely Director of Client Success


REPRESENTATION
  • Take active steps to remove bias in hiring practices, scan job postings for gender biased language, employ recruiters who specialize in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Be equally intentional about creating a career development framework that helps underrepresented team members move up the ladder internally.


“We read nightly to my kids, and it has been one of my favorite times to learn about the progress women have driven in our society and world. We read names like Sally Ride, Emmeline Pankhurst, Harriet Tubman, Maya Rudolph, and Kamala Harris—women who have broken barriers and give my daughters examples of what they can become. 

It reminds me that representation is what enables the dream, and it challenges me to help create a culture and company where women are celebrated, given equal opportunity, and a loud voice in how we make decisions that impact our team and set examples for others.”

Tyler Felous - Wisely Cofounder & Chief Product Officer


EMPATHY
  • Allow for flexible work schedules, proactively check in with direct reports on their needs, give proactive feedback more regularly than usual (positive and constructive), fund an Employee Assistance Program for additional support.


“Whether you’re single, dual-income w/ no kids, raising a family with a partner or solo (simply put, whatever your situation) — if you’re leading a team and can bring flexibility to someone’s life who may need it now more than ever — turn your empathy into action”

Rachel Boyschau, Wisely Head of Marketing


FOCUS
  • Women, resist the urge to raise your hand for company/meeting/office housework—leaders, ensure that the women on your staff can spend their time on tasks directly related to being a top performer in their role.


“I've always had young women work for me when I've been in a management or leadership role and have realized how important active mentoring is. Watching young women often volunteer to take notes, or clean up after meetings, one piece of wisdom I would always pass on is “Do not volunteer to be in the subservient position.” This is about how you want to be perceived. You train people to look at you in a certain way, fair or not.”

Tammy K. Billings, Wisley Director of Enterprise Sales


BUILD TRUST
  • Encourage leaders and other highly visible members of your organization to make themselves vulnerable when they don’t understand—this opens the door for others who may be justifiably more hesitant. Make space and time in meetings for clarification, and provide multiple avenues to ask questions.


“Sometimes being one of the only minorities in a group, especially in the workforce, can cause you to be hesitant. The feeling is, “If everyone else here is white, I don't necessarily want to be the only person asking questions.” But I've pushed myself to trust that being vulnerable and authentic to get the knowledge that I need is how I move forward.”

Daynira Pimentel, Wisely Business Development Representative


RECOGNITION
  • Actively trumpet the successes of underrepresented team members, and publicly appreciate their good ideas. Do a regular bias self-inventory to ask  “am I listening to ideas from all team members? Am I giving women’s and other underrepresented voices equal weight when I decide to move forward with an idea?” Ask other leaders in your organization the same questions.


“I used to be someone who was just doing the things I was told to do, and there was a point where I challenged myself to say to people “I can do this better than you.” Don't wait for someone to discover you. Just stand out, say I can do this better. I know this world will actually penalize women for doing this, but don't worry about that. Promote yourself.”

Mingming Zhang, Wisely Head of Data Science


INCLUSIVITY
  • Create a solid foundation with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training for the whole organization, especially leadership. Write Inclusivity into your values and hold team members accountable to that value. Be purposeful about building a People team that has DEI expertise.


“I think one of my jobs as a human is to make other people feel good about who they are—to bring them happiness and to point out their strengths because it's really hard for any of us to feel free to express ourselves. In any role I've had, it's my privilege to help other people feel valued just for being themselves.”

Landree Fleming, Wisely Finance Associate


KINDNESS
  • Build organizational emotional intelligence, starting at the leadership level. Set clear expectations, give honest, balanced feedback regularly, encourage growth, and be transparent about difficult decisions. Put these principles into practice in meetings, stand-ups, and reviews, especially when having tough conversations.


“In leadership roles I’ve held, I have seen over and over again the power of an emotionally intelligent leadership. I know firsthand that it is entirely possible to be kind AND strong, to be empathic AND uphold standards.  It can be very hard to find this balance, and it takes a lot of inner work to learn how to pull these levers simultaneously, but I have seen the growth in each member of teams I managed when they were not motivated by fear.”

Sarah Mays, Wisely Recruiting Coordinator 


TEST, FAIL, LEARN
  • Make it especially safe for underrepresented team members to have the space to test, fail, and learn. Leaders, volunteer your own failures in team meetings, emphasize lessons learned, value curiosity, and create a common language/toolbox to evaluate failures and report back on learnings


“When I was at Accenture, I worked for a Partner named Toni Langlinais. One piece of feedback she gave to me was "you need to fail at something.” At the time, I didn't really understand what she meant, but nine years after starting a company, I got it. If you're really stretching yourself, there's an inherent chance of failure. For the first 4.5 years of Wisely's history, we failed all day every day. Toni's wisdom helped me to value failure as a prerequisite to accomplishing anything of significance.”

Mike Vichich Wisely Cofounder & CEO 


AMPLIFICATION
  • Amplify underrepresented voices. Intentionally create space and opportunities for underrepresented team members to voice opinions, participate in important conversations, inform critical decisions, and act as the face of the company.


“I am an immigrant woman of color. The first few years of my career, I tried hard to fit in with how everyone else was on my team. Over the course of time, I realized that there is so much value to different perspectives and stories. There is no need to fit into a template. It takes an incredible amount of self-confidence to be able to get there, and I had some amazing co-workers who helped me be comfortable in my own skin.”

Ushashi Chakraborty, Wisely VP of Engineering


SUPPORT
  • Whether employees discover a new passion leading them to pursue a new degree, or want to continue to learn in their current specialty, make space for people to grow and learn. Give more flexibility at work, include part-time options, or offer financial support if possible for your company.


“I had put school on pause and was working in restaurants and hotels. At a certain point my husband just said "You want to finish your degree, why don't you go back to school?” He made it sound so easy and said he would support in any way. I ended up working two jobs and taking seven classes a semester for two years, but I did it, I graduated with a degree in computer systems.

Now, moving from an SMB role to a Mid Market role at Wisely, I bring with me the knowledge that you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Life will come at you, but you have to do it for yourself. Don't do it for anyone else.”

Tammy Trevathan, Wisely Mid Market Sales Executive


MOBILITY
  • Be the company that lets people get a foot in the door—host a range of internships for more than just students or recent graduates. When hiring, focus on ideal candidate qualities and skills, not ideal backgrounds or experience.


“What you might envision for yourself may not be what actually happens for you career-wise. I have two degrees in fashion business, including a masters from Fordham in fashion law, but here I am in tech. The trick is learning how to pivot and keep the same core values for yourself—how do you take what you've learned and apply it to new paths?”

Gigi Johnson, Wisely Business Development Representative


Conclusion:

At Wisely, today and every day, we aim to lift-up, grow, challenge, and learn from the talented team members whose hard work, savviness, and impressive intelligence keep us inspired and pushing to build an even greater company. 

We #ChoosetoChallenge ourselves to take direct action to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace for women, and for every person who may be underrepresented or marginalized in our industries.

And we invite anyone reading to join us in embracing the challenges put to us by the #WiseWomen we all work alongside—valued as integral to our businesses, our culture, and this wild world we live in.